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Young Farmer Focus: Ben Lewis - ‘We need to safeguard the future of the beef industry’

Ben Lewis, 25, works with his parents on their mixed family farm in Dilwyn, Herefordshire, which is home to the Haven herd of pedigree Hereford cattle.

Farm life

 

I have always had a passion for farming and, in particular, Hereford cattle. Since 2015, I have worked full-time at home with my parents, Edward and Carol.

 

Prior to this I studied for a degree in agriculture at Reading University, while also working part-time on-farm and in different harvest jobs.

 

The 162-hectare (400-acre) farm is made up of cider apples, arable and grassland, with the remainder in hops and environmental stewardship mixes.

 

Having increased cow numbers since leaving university, we are currently trying to accelerate maternal improvements in the herd by using embryo transfer.

 

Hereford cattle

 

The main aim is to produce females, which will become the basis of the herd for future years. We are also planning to produce some females, which may be included in a sale we are planning for 2022 to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the Lewis family producing Hereford cattle.

 

Keeping Hereford cattle is an easy decision for us. They are easy calving, easy fleshing and easy to handle; what more do you need? But in truth, I have not worked with many other breeds.

 

However, as we ran our first group of continental cross recipients through the yard for the first time, I realised I did not like repairing fences.

 

I have been lucky enough to see Hereford cattle across the world, including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and at the same time met inspiring characters, saw superb stock and had great experiences.

 

Beef industry

 

The main take-home point from these countries is to safeguard the future of the UK beef industry. We need to concentrate on putting a high-end product on supermarket shelves with consistent taste and texture.

 

I believe the Hereford will play a vital part in this.


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Weather

 

As a traditional Herefordshire farm, we also grow cider apples and hops, along with arable crops. The apples, now in full blossom, are looking well after being hit by the wet winter and early spring, with a few tree losses coming from phytophthora in poorly draining areas.

 

This is a similar story in winter cereal fields where wet areas are obvious to the eye, but we count ourselves lucky for the amount of crop which has made it this far.

 

We have seen areas of soil go from gravy to concrete very quickly this spring, but I am positive we will start to regenerate our soils by introducing diverse cover crops, less tillage and more Hereford cattle to the rotation.

 

Covid-19

 

As a farm we have been relatively unaffected day-to-day during the coronavirus pandemic. I am a member of Dilwyn Young Farmers’ Club and our meetings and socials have been put on hold, along with all of our usual summer show fixtures where we would normally show our cattle.

 

Opportunity

 

The impact of the virus has already reached far and wide and, as the public reflect on their own lives, we as an industry need to see this as an opportunity to promote our food production and the public goods we offer.

 

Education

 

Education of the public is vital to our success as farmers and, having been successful in gaining a Leader grant for tourism, we now have a dedicated facility to host farm tours. In this way, we can educate visitors while also adding value to our farming enterprise.

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